Tennessee’s momentum from a strong finish in the 2016 signing class didn’t carry over into the start of the 2017 cycle on Thursday evening.
The Vols lost their lone 2017 commitment – local wide receiver standout Tee Higgins – who announced that he would open up his recruitment, but will still consider Tennessee.
It was a tough decision… pic.twitter.com/mCwiBJdevk
— Tee Higgins® (@teehiggins5) February 5, 2016
The 6-foot-5, 190-pound Higgins is a two-sport star at Oak Ridge (Tenn.) High, who is ranked as the No. 39 player nationally in football in the 2017 class by the 247Sports Composite ranking. He has football offers from many of the top programs around the nation including Ohio State, Clemson, Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and others.
Some are recruiting him to play both football and basketball, though he is best known as a prospect on the gridiron – where he had 46 catches for 841 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior in 2016. He recently visited Clemson, which, along with Tennessee, should be considered a serious contender for his services in the 2017 class.
The Vols have had three different commitments in the 2017 class, only to see them all change their plans. Quarterback Hunter Johnson, a top-20 player nationally, switched his pledge from UT to Clemson in December. Defensive end Jordon Riley of Durham, N.C., was briefly committed to the Vols in June of 2015, but reopened his commitment a month later. Higgins, a Mr. Football winner in the state of Tennessee, originally committed to the Vols last August before Thursday evening’s announcement.
The Vols did land five receivers – Marquez Callaway, Latrell Williams, Brandon Johnson, Corey Henderson and Jeff George – in the 2016 signing class, though it’s unclear at this point if that affected Higgins’ decision or not.
The Vols, paced by one of the best rushing attacks in school history in 2015, weren’t as productive through the air – finishing ninth in the SEC in passing yardage with just under 200 yards per game. No single receiver had more than 38 catches or 409 yards of receiving on the season.
Generally speaking, players who decommit from a program don’t end up returning to that school to sign, but the Vols just inked a notable exception in the 2016 class in junior college defensive end Jonathan Kongbo III, who decommitted from Tennessee, only to sign with the Vols on the afternoon of National Signing Day.
Tennessee fans will hope to see the same outcome with Higgins, though they will have to be patient as he opens up the process and looks around a bit more.